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September 11, 2018, Bolivia

Colours of Bolivia

Hong Weixi explores the vivid landscapes of the South American country

Hong Weixi

When travellers think of Bolivia, they often think only of the Uyuni Salt Flat, which at times becomes a reflective pool where the white of the salt fields blends into the blue of the sky.

But in fact, everywhere you turn in this landlocked country in South America, an explosion of colours assaults the senses.

From the whites of the snowcapped peaks and the greens of the exuberant rainforests to the colourful indigenous markets and the multi-coloured lagoons, the landscapes are varied and unparalleled.

They paint a colourful picture of a country filled with natural wonders, a rich history and diversified culture.

Although nearly 300 years of Spanish colonial rule until the early 19th century left its mark on Bolivia’s language, religion and architecture, its deep-seated indigenous culture and traditions have survived.

Spanish is the language of government and business, but a visitor can find himself surrounded by Quechua- or Aymara-speaking people; there are more than 30 indigenous languages in Bolivia.

Most Bolivians are Catholic, but they perform many rites like that of parading the skulls of the departed on Nov 8 (Dia de las Natitas) every year or blessing cars with holy water and alcohol. There is definitely more to Bolivia than the whites of Uyuni.

GETTING THERE

There are no direct flights from Singapore to Bolivia. Bolivian national carrier Boliviana de Aviación, South America-based airlines such as Avianca or LATAM, and some American and European airlines fly there.

TRAVELLER’S TIPS

- Singaporeans visiting Bolivia need a visa, which can be obtained on arrival for a fee of about US$100. Alternatively, it can be obtained at a Bolivian consulate in advance for free. There is no Bolivian embassy or consulate in Singapore.

- Strikes (called “bloqueos”), especially transportation strikes, are common in Bolivia, so keep up with local news. Some strikes can last up to two weeks. If there is a strike, avoid trying to go around or through blockades.

- English is hardly spoken in Bolivia, even in areas with a high concentration of tourists like La Paz or Uyuni. It would be useful to learn a few Spanish words.

- Some parts of Bolivia like La Paz and Uyuni are on a high altitude, so take adequate precautions against altitude sickness. Take time to acclimatise and do not over-exert yourself within a few days of arrival. You can buy pills for altitude problems in pharmacies. The sun is very strong in Bolivia, especially in higher-altitude places, so pack strong sunscreen and moisturiser.

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